It was the summer of 2014, and after graduating from school up north for a couple of years, I felt an enormous need to return to the city of Los Angeles for all the human reasons: to see my mother, as well as my old friends and teachers, and to enjoy the sunshine only Southern California offers. Returning was every bit as enriching as I had imagined it in my mind; it was once only a dream of mine to take hold of that priceless piece of paper, a degree from an American university, and yet there I was, “Home Again,” with one. After my graduation, our little familia was–even if just incrementally–in a better position for a better future together.
Then one evening, I found myself walking with mama through the “old” neighborhood when a vision took hold of me. Crossing shoulders with our fellow pedestrians, I was taken aback by all the families that could be our own. They looked and walked as we did, and put up their storefronts down the street no differently from mom and I at la caseta.
Their faces were filled with dignity, and as I heard them chatting and laughing charismatically with one another, I could feel the resilience and generosity of their character as warmly as the sunshine ebbing away in the distance.
Then I looked at the whole boulevard, and its warm and brilliant lights under the vast sky filled me with a euphoric feeling. I fell hard. I saw myself in the city and its endless neighborhoods, and I haven’t been able to shake the vision ever since.
That fall, with the humbling support of the community, I fundraised for my first “(semi) professional” camera, a Canon Mark I, which I then used to develop “J.T.,” something I thought of as a “re-discovery” of the city I grew up in at every turn and photograph. To sustain the website and make other ends meet, I found work wherever they were hiring, landing a position at Vons as a cashier, then at Starbucks as a barista. After a couple of years in these roles, I accepted a position with the Inside Out Writers, a special nonprofit in Los Angeles working for juvenile justice, becoming a writing instructor with their organization. I also found a role with the Plus Me project, another organization doing storytelling at different middle and high schools across Los Angeles.
My time serving at each “gig” taught me a great deal about myself, but more than anything, it taught me how to manage my time, one second at a time, JIMBO TIMES style. Seven years later, I see JIMBO TIMES more than ever in the endless shades of brown masses streaming through L.A. Metro buses, subways, sidewalks, storefronts, and more.
I now strive 365 days a year for the website as a full-time editor-in-chief for the site, so as to ensure the world sees and hears from someone born and raised by the scale and scope of the megalopolis known as Los Angeles.
From the East to the South side, and from Central L.A. to the Valley, our communities are teeming with workers and dreamers, and J.T. the L.A. Storyteller is still committed to honoring every single one of them as much as scale and scope allow.
For more of this story and those of our fellow L.A. storytellers, please RSVP to our special gathering online tonight at EastHollywood.Eventbrite.com.
And through it all, REMEMBER: J.T. remains committed to the tenacity of Los Angeles, tipping hats to the hustle and bustle of our familias all the time and everywhere we’re to be found.